IN THE MATTER OF THE CERTIFICATES OF ERIC LARSON

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					       IN THE MATTER OF             :       NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

       THE CERTIFICATES OF          :              STATE BOARD OF EXAMINERS

       ERIC LARSON                  :              ORDER OF REVOCATION

       _______________________ :                   DOCKET NO: 0708-141

       At its meeting of February 21, 2008, the State Board of Examiners reviewed information

the Office of Criminal History Review had forwarded indicating that Eric Larson was convicted

in 2007 on charges of possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance and

conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). As a result of such conviction,

Larson was disqualified from public service pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-7.1 et seq. Larson did

not appeal the disqualification before the Commissioner of Education. Larson currently holds a

Teacher of Elementary School in Grades K-5 Certificate of Eligibility With Advanced Standing,

issued in May 2004 and a Teacher of Elementary School in Grades K-5 certificate, issued in

September 2005. Upon review of the above information, at its February 21, 2008 meeting, the

State Board of Examiners voted to issue Larson an Order to Show Cause.

       The Board sent Larson the Order to Show Cause by regular and certified mail on March

6, 2008. The Order provided that Larson must file an Answer within 30 days. Larson filed an

Answer on March 20, 2008. In that Answer, Larson admitted to all of the allegations in the

Order to Show Cause. He added that he accepted a plea after his mother’s and brother’s charges

were dropped and his sentence was reduced. (Answer, pp. 1-2.)

       Thereafter, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:9-17.7(e), on April 18, 2008, a hearing notice was

mailed by regular and certified mail to Larson. The notice explained that since it appeared no

material facts were in dispute regarding Larson’s offense, he was offered an opportunity to

submit written arguments on the issue of whether the conduct addressed in the Order to Show
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Cause constituted conduct unbecoming a certificate holder. It also explained that upon review of

the charges against him and the legal arguments tendered in his defense, the State Board of

Examiners would determine if his disqualifying offense warranted action against his certificates.

Thereupon, the Board of Examiners would also determine the appropriate sanction, if any. The

notice also offered him the opportunity to file a written submission with regard to the appropriate

sanction in the event that the Board found just cause to revoke or suspend his certificate and

providing him the opportunity to appear to provide testimony on the sanction issue.

       Larson submitted documentation that included character references and an explanation of

the events that led to his plea bargain. In addition, Larson appeared at the Board meeting on July

17, 2008, and testified as to mitigation regarding the penalty he faced. During his testimony, he

reasserted his dedication to teaching.

       The issue before the State Board of Examiners in this matter, therefore, is whether

Larson’s conviction for possession with intent to distribute a CDS and conspiracy to distribute a

CDS and his disqualification from teaching in the public schools constitute conduct unbecoming

a certificate holder. At its meeting of July 17, 2008, the State Board of Examiners reviewed the

charges and papers Larson filed in response to the Order to Show Cause. After review of the

response, the Board of Examiners determined that no material facts related to Larson’s offense

were in dispute since he never denied that he had committed the offense nor did he deny that he

had been disqualified because of it. Thus, the Board of Examiners determined that summary

decision was appropriate in this matter. N.J.A.C. 6A:9-17.7(h).

       It is therefore ORDERED that the charges in the Order to Show Cause are deemed

admitted for the purpose of this proceeding. The issue before the State Board of Examiners in

this matter, therefore, is whether Larson’s disqualification, which was predicated on the same
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offense as was set forth in the Order to Show Cause, represents just cause to act against his

certificates pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:9-17.5. The Board finds that it does.

       In enacting the Criminal History Review statute, N.J.S.A. 18A:6-7.1 et seq. in 1986, the

Legislature sought to protect public school pupils from contact with individuals whom it deemed

to be a danger to them. In l989, the Legislature specifically amended the statute to include all

convictions concerning controlled dangerous substances as disqualifying offenses. See N.J.S.A.

18A:6-7.1(b). This amendment was a clear recognition on the part of the Legislature that

individuals with such drug convictions should not be permitted to be in contact with school-aged

children. The consistent and long-standing policy of this State is to eliminate the use of illegal

drugs. See In the Matter of the Tenure Hearing of David Earl Humphreys, 1978 S.L.D. 689. To

that end, the State and its schools have engaged in extensive educational efforts to warn the

citizenry of the perils of illicit drugs. See In the Matter of the Certificate of Barbara Corwick,

OAL Dkt. No. EDE 3562-87, State Board of Examiners decision (March 24, 1988). Those who

violate this deep-rooted policy, whether by the use of drugs or their manufacture and

distribution, endanger the public welfare; they cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of

caring for school-aged pupils. Accordingly, the State Board of Examiners finds that Larson’s

disqualification from service in the public schools of this State because of his conviction for

possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance and conspiracy to distribute

a controlled dangerous substance provides just cause to take action against Larson’s certificates.

       That strong policy statement on the part of the Legislature set forth in N.J.S.A. 18A:6-

7.1(b) also offers guidance to the State Board of Examiners as to the appropriate sanction in this

matter. An individual whose offense is so great that he or she is barred from service in public

schools should not be permitted to retain the license that authorizes such service. Nor should a
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person who has been disqualified from teaching in a public school be permitted to continue to

hold himself out as a teacher. Because the Legislature considers Larson’s offense so significant,

the State Board of Examiners in this matter believes that the appropriate sanction for his

disqualification is the revocation of his certificates to teach. See In the Matter of the Revocation

of the Teaching Certificate of Patricia Rector, Agency Dkt. No. 19-02 (St. Bd. of Education,

August 7, 2002) (affirming the decision of the State Board of Examiners to revoke Rector’s

teaching certificate on the basis of the disqualification pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-7.1.)

        Accordingly, on July 17, 2008 the Board of Examiners voted to revoke Larson’s Teacher

of Elementary School in Grades K-5 Certificate of Eligibility With Advanced Standing and his

Teacher of Elementary School in Grades K-5 certificate. On this 11th day of September 2008

the Board of Examiners voted to adopt its formal written decision and it is therefore ORDERED

that the revocation of Eric Larson’s certificates be effective immediately.            It is further

ORDERED that Larson return his certificates to the Secretary of the State Board of Examiners,

Office of Licensure, P.O. Box 500, Trenton, NJ 08625-0500 within 30 days of the mailing date

of this decision.




                                              _______________________________
                                              Robert R. Higgins, Secretary
                                              State Board of Examiners


Date of Mailing:
Appeals may be made to the Commissioner of Education pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A.
18A:6-28.

RRH:MZ: